Tag Archive: america


Hands Off SyriaMessage From ‘Hands Off Syria!’

August 26th, 2013
There is a very dangerous situation developing in the Middle east in the immediate future with this latest provocation. It is a completely conscienceless attack on mainly civilians in order to ignite a wider bloodbath. It shows clearly that imperialism, dominated by U.S. imperialism has no agenda in the middle east (or anywhere else) except for destruction of communities and whole nations in order to loot their resources

The evidence in the attachment against this attack being he work of the Syrian government is strong and yet is being completely disregarded by the media in the main. the BBC in particular is at its slimy lying best as an instrument of ruling class propaganda, despite its being completely funded by ordinary people, which should insure its independence.

According to the foreign secretary, Britain and America intend to go ahead with attacks on Syria independently of the U.N. as ‘diplomacy’ has not worked. By diplomacy they presumably mean sanctions(which, according to the reporter Franklin Lamb, are devastating the lives of ordinary civilians) and arming and sending into the country bands of fanatics to cause murder and destruction.

This is a very dangerous escalation of an already explosive situation in the Middle East and one that is not desired by the vast majority of people in Britain and the United States and shows desperation in the face of the unravelling of their plans for the devastation and division of Syria by the use of proxy forces. In the light of the victories of the Syrian government forces in recent weeks and the demoralisation and divisions in the ranks of the armed gangs it makes no sense whatsoever for Syrian government forces to resort to an action that would bring down retaliation on their heads.

This is undoubtedly a provocation. The Syrian government and army are all that stands in the way of the dismembrment and destruction of the country by imperialism.In this situation it is imperative that all Socialists must call for unconditional support for Syria against these attacks by imperialism regardless of the nature of the regime in charge. The demand must be HANDS OFF SYRIA!Hands Off Syria

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French military oversees power-sharing deal in Central African Republic

By Patrick O’Connor, 31 January 2013
After deploying several hundred troops to the Central African Republic late last month, the French government has overseen the signing of a peace agreement between President François Bozizé and leaders of the rebel militias that had threatened to overrun the capital, Bangui.

As well as agreeing not to nominate for another term as president after 2016, Bozizé has sacked his government and appointed rebel-nominated Nicolas Tiangaye as prime minister. Tiangaye will soon establish a so-called national unity government ahead of fresh legislative elections next year.

The political realignment underway is being driven by the French government, which aims to reassert control over its former resource-rich colony and counter China’s growing economic and diplomatic influence. The operation in the Central African Republic forms part of a wider drive by US and French imperialism to bolster their strategic domination over Africa through direct military interventions. The latest involves a French-led ground offensive in northern Mali and the stationing of US drones and French troops in neighbouring Niger.

Bozizé, a former army general, appointed himself president in 2003 after leading a coup that was backed by the French government. He subsequently depended on French support to maintain power in the impoverished and chronically unstable country. In 2006 and 2007, French military forces stationed in the country launched air strikes and ground attacks on rebel militias, halting their threatened takeover of the capital and overthrow of the government. Last December, the loose coalition of anti-government militias known as Seleka (“alliance” in the Sango national language) launched a renewed offensive, capturing swathes of territory in the country’s north and east.

The French government responded by more than doubling its existing 250-troop deployment in the Central African Republic to nearly 600. But unlike in 2006 and 2007, Paris refused to back Bozizé against the rebels. French troops—together with those in the Central African Multi-National Force that was formed between several neighbouring states—instead secured the capital from a further rebel advance while the French government demanded peace negotiations.

The January 11 deal, signed in the west African country of Gabon, involved Bozizé making the first significant political concessions of his 10-year autocratic presidency.

The French government is developing new political mechanisms in the Central African Republic (CAR). US diplomatic cables, published by WikiLeaks, detailed the breach in relations between Paris and the Bozizé regime. Several cables in 2009 revealed French hostility toward various obstacles that were placed before French corporation Areva as it attempted to secure the rights to mine uranium at a site in the country’s south. On June 17, 2009, US ambassador Frederick Cook dispatched a cable, “French-CAR relations seriously strained,” that concluded: “Bozizé may believe that he has successfully rendered himself the least of the evils in the CAR political landscape. He thus appears to imagine himself indispensable to his neighbours and the French, an assumption that may be badly mistaken.”

Another cable sent five months later was headed “Growing Chinese influence in the CAR evident.” It detailed the extent to which both American and French interests were losing ground to Beijing, which was “ramping up its military cooperation, public diplomacy and development efforts.” The cable noted that whereas there were only four resident diplomatic agents in the American embassy in Bangui, the Chinese embassy had about 40 employees. It added that approximately 40 CAR military officers were being trained in China every year, compared to the two or three officers who went to the US and 10-15 to France.

Making clear the predatory calculations behind the US and French presence in the Central African Republic, the cable referred to the country’s “rich untapped natural resources” and warned: “With French investments moribund and French influence in general decline, the Chinese are likely positioning themselves as the CAR’s primary benefactor in exchange for access to the CAR’s ample deposits of uranium, gold, iron, diamonds, and possibly oil.”

The US ambassador also cautioned that Bozizé “is welcoming this relationship as an alternative to more restrictive relations with the French and the West” and would likely “increasingly embrace the Chinese as an alternative to the French and other Western benefactors.”

On December 27, Bozizé gave a speech in which he hinted that French opposition to the earlier issuing of oil exploration contracts to Chinese corporations was behind the crisis. “Before giving oil to the Chinese I met with [oil company] Total in Paris and told them to take the oil,” he declared. “Nothing happened. I gave oil to the Chinese and it became a problem.”

According to Voice of America, at the same time that Bozizé signed the power-sharing agreement on January 11, he declared that he would “work to strengthen ties with China, and to promote oil exploration and development.”

Bozizé likely remains in power only due to the absence of any viable alternative for the imperialist powers. The Seleka rebels are a fractious coalition, comprising various militias with different agendas. Some of the militias were formed by supporters of former President Ange-Félix Patassé, some purport to represent the country’s Muslim minority, while others were organised by different tribal communities, defending themselves against Bozizé’s brutal security forces. It is unclear whether all the militias will accept the terms of the January 11 deal, which involves the rebels relinquishing control of the towns they captured to government forces.The VOAG

Vietnam protest against Olympic sponsor Dow Chemical

The organisers of London’s 2012 Olympics call them the Green Games – a monument to best sustainable practice within the sports world. The Vietnamese government says the organisers should tell that to the hundreds of thousands of children born with cleft palates, mental disabilities, hernias, lung, larynx and prostate cancer, missing limbs and extra fingers and toes. Vietnam joined the growing chorus of protest against Olympic sponsors accused of “green-washing” their past sins earlier this month. In a letter obtained by GlobalPost, the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism castigated the Lausanne-based International Olympic Committee (IOC) for green-lighting Dow Chemical as a major Olympic sponsor.

Dow produced about one-third of the 80 million liters of Agent Orange defoliants sprayed over southern Vietnam, during what the Vietnamese call “The American War.” The Vietnamese Red Cross estimates that up to 3 million Vietnamese have been affected by Agent Orange, including at least 300,000 children born with birth defects. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs estimates are much higher. It says 4.8 million people were exposed, resulting in 400,000 deaths and injuries and about 500,000 children born with defects, many of which are still being born to this day — some four generations later. “Agent Orange … destroyed the environment, claimed the lives of millions of Vietnamese and left terrible effects on millions of others, who are now suffering from incurable diseases. Hundreds of thousands of fourth generation children have been born with severe congenital deformities,” wrote Hoang Tuan Anh, Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism to the IOC.

“Dow Chemical has expressed indifference and refused compensation for victims of Agent Orange, as well as their responsibility to clean up contaminated areas. Dow also continues to destroy the environment. In 2010, US EPA listed Dow as the second worst polluter in the world,” the letter said.

Vietnam has unsuccessfully brought legal action against Dow and other Agent Orange producers in US courts. But activists say that the Communist state is caught in a legal bind. The producers of Agent Orange blame the US government for its use, while sovereign immunity shields Washington from prosecution in American courts.

US helicopters and planes sprayed about 20% of southern Vietnam with the defoliants over a 10-year period. The goal was to strip the North Vietnamese of jungle cover and limit access to food supplies. A less reported aim was to drive rural Vietnamese who may have been sympathetic to Hanoi into US-controlled cities in what was then South Vietnam. “It’s ironic that Dow is allowed to sponsor sporting events including Paralympics athletes when it is responsible for creating generations of severely disabled children and refuses to do anything to help them,” wrote a Vietnam Association of Victims of Agent Orange/Dioxin spokesman in an email.

Dow, the IOC and the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games ignored repeated requests for comment. Dow Chemical inked a 10-year deal with the IOC in 2010. Dow envisioned a global sales bump of about $1 billion by promoting, ironically enough, a raft of environmentally-friendly products.

But it was the $11.25 million contract doled out to Dow for the 336 giant panels that will make up the decorative wrap that first sparked controversy. The Commission for a Sustainable London 2012, a watchdog body charged with overseeing the Games’ environmental credentials, was rocked when commissioner Meredith Alexander resigned last month in protest over Dow’s awarding of the stadium contract.

Campaigners believe that Dow also has ongoing liabilities relating to the 1984 Union Carbide disaster in Bhopal, India, that led to an estimated 20,000 deaths and serious injury to tens of thousands more. “But the Olympics is big business. There is an expensive machine behind the Games that is funded by corporate sponsors. Sadly when these sponsors are selected, money talks much more loudly than values,” said Alexander to The Guardian. Big business indeed. Dow’s Olympic stable mates also include BP and Rio Tinto, two resource extraction behemoths that rights groups say have woeful environmental and human-rights track records.

“Dow refuses to accept responsibility. They state they were told to make the chemicals by the US government and will not and have not paid one cent in compensation,” writes Len Aldis, secretary of Britain-Vietnam Friendship Society, in an email to GlobalPost. “Despite their record, money talks. The IOC should cancel Dow’s sponsorship of the Games.”
This article was first published on http://postnoon.com
For more on this story go to: Britain-Vietnam Friendship Society 

International petty-bourgeois “left” backs imperialist war in Syria

By Alejandro López. 13 February 2012
A series of petty-bourgeois “left” parties and personalities from Spain, Tunisia, Latin America, and beyond recently issued a Spanish-language manifesto on Syria on the web site Rebelion, titled “To the People of Syria who are Fighting Tyranny”.

These signatories include leading members the Anti-capitalist Left (IA) in Spain, the Worker Communist Party of Tunisia (PCOT), Brazil’s Socialism and Freedom Party (PSOL), Argentina’s Socialist Left (IS), and similar forces in Mexico, Chile, Turkey, and other countries. (See http://www.rebelion.org/noticia.php?id=143778  for the full list of signatories.)

The statement exposes the organizations and individuals issuing this statement as tools of imperialism. Their statement gives total support to US-backed “opposition” groups now involved in an armed civil war and destabilization campaign in Syria, which it tries to treat as representing the entire Syrian people—even though it is well known that large sections of the Syrian population are hostile to the US-backed insurgency. Their goal is to give a “left” cover to plans by the US, the European powers, and the Arab League regimes for military intervention to topple Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

The statement begins, “Ten months ago, you, the people of Syria, rose up against the brutal dictatorship led by Bashar Al-Assad, resulting in countless martyrs, prisoners and refugees. We want you to know that we are by your side … We are also aware that the rich, powerful nations have ignored you by turning a blind eye while the killings by the regime continue, but keep in mind that there are many of us all over the world who are with you and reject the policy of collaboration that those imperial powers and their governments provide to the Bashar regime.”

This version of events stands reality on its head. The imperialist powers and their Arab proxies are not supporting the Assad regime; they have reportedly brought resolutions denouncing Assad and pressing for foreign intervention in Syria at the United Nations and the Arab League. They are widely reported to be providing arms and training to Syrian armed “opposition” groups, who are carrying out attacks and bombings against the Syrian government.

Turkey has provided a base near the border for training Syrian insurgents and is discussing with its NATO allies the possibility of imposing a no-fly zone over Syrian territory. The Western media has widely reported that Turkey and France are providing arms and aid to these forces, resulting in more bloodshed and stoking up a civil war (See: “France’s New Anti-Capitalist Party backs imperialist intervention in Syria”).

They are using the same strategy as in last year’s NATO war against Libya. There the overthrow of Gaddafi by NATO was accomplished with the help of Libyan proxy forces on the ground, the National Transitional Council of Libya, dominated by Islamist fighters and funded and armed by US regional allies. The NATO war cost at least 80,000 casualties, by the NTC’s own estimates.

The Syrian version of the NTC is the Syrian National Council (SNC) and the Free Syrian Army, which are backed by Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, and supported by the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
The statement’s initial remark only begs the question: if the signatories of the manifesto are criticizing the imperialist powers for not acting aggressively enough against Assad, what more do they want? What else can they be advocating except an open and direct military intervention by the US and its allies to support its Syrian proxies, along the lines of the war in Libya?
The signatories of this manifesto are aware of the consequences of imperialist intervention. Indeed, many of them openly embraced imperialist intervention in Libya, sometimes making cynical and ineffectual attempts to present NATO’s overthrow and murder of Gaddafi in Libya as a defeat for imperialism.
In a press statement last August, Liliana Olivero (deputy for Córdoba), Angélica Lagunas, Jose Castillo and Juan Carlos Giordano of Izquierda Socialista (Socialist Left) in Argentina stated that “the imminent fall of the dictatorship of Gaddafi is a victory for the Libyan people … it is not a triumph of NATO as attributed by itself by Obama and European imperialism. They only made limited bombings to try to prevent a victory by the militia and seek a negotiated solution that would allow them to defend their oil business.”
Exactly one year ago, Esther Vivas and Josep Maria Antentas of Spain’s IA openly advocated “the political and economic international isolation of the [Libyan] regime, and the unconditional supply of weapons to the rebels.”
Pedro Fuentes, the secretary of foreign relations of PSOL, declared last May in the Mexican daily La Jornada: “What the rebels want and need are weapons and humanitarian aid … The supposed neutrality of the Brazilian government ends up being a totally ambiguous and hypocritical policy oflaissez-faire for Gaddafi and the imperialist countries. The only correct alternative would be to recognize the rebel government as a belligerent force and support them in every way possible and responding positively to what they ask. Meanwhile, the position socialists and anti-imperialists have to defend is, while recognizing and denouncing the goals of imperialist intervention, is by all means continue to support the overthrow Gaddafi.”
That is to say, that pro-imperialist politicians like Fuentes had to support NATO’s campaign to conquer Libya, while issuing empty criticisms of imperialism in order to deceitfully hide their role as unabashed defenders of imperialist war.
These scoundrels are repeating the same arguments now with Syria, even though the reactionary consequences of imperialist intervention in Libya are clear for all to see. The war led to whole cities being bombed to the ground, tens of thousands of casualties, racist pogroms against dark skinned people, and large-scale use of torture; Western oil companies now control Libyan oil fields and an Islamist proxy regime rules Libya.
The manifesto goes on to attack a “sector of the anti-imperialist left,” whom it accuses of “turning its back on the revolution against the dictatorship of Bashar.” This is nothing more than a preemptive strike against anyone who criticizes the imperialist intervention, by branding them as a defender of Assad.
The manifesto goes on to cynically cite the Assad regime’s reactionary role in repressing the “Palestinians in the refugee camp massacres of Tal Zaatar in 1976” and cooperating “with Israel in securing its borders.” That is, it is citing the Syrian bourgeoisie’s dealings with imperialism and Zionism to suppress the Palestinian people, in order to stimulate hostility to the Assad regime, now that Assad himself is the target of the imperialists. This remark is deeply misleading and reactionary. Its aim is not to oppose imperialist and Zionist oppression of the Palestinians, but to support imperialist war against Assad.
The manifesto continues: “Western powers only stand to gain in this situation and nothing good will come out of the American Empire and Western governments … do not trust them, the only thing they want is to rob the wealth taking it from the workers, the peoples of America, Africa and Asia, in the same way they did with their bombings in Iraq and in Libya and how they are doing now in Egypt, supporting the criminal military junta.”
The logical question to then ask is: if the signatories of the manifesto don’t trust the imperialists, why did they support the Libyan NTC, and why are they now supporting the imperialist-backed SFA to defeat Assad? Why are they treating the SNC as the legitimate representatives of the Syrian working class, instead of warning the Syrian workers of the role of the SFA and demanding a struggle of the working class against both the pro-imperialist forces and Assad?
The manifesto does not and cannot address this question, because it leads to only one conclusion: the manifesto’s authors are pro-imperialist forces, whose “left” verbiage is only a political fig leaf to hide their right-wing politics.
We must insist that Assad must be overthrown, but this task belongs only to the Syrian working class as part of a struggle of the entire Arab and international working class, directed first and foremost against imperialism. In that struggle, the working class will find that the signatories of the manifesto published in Rebelion are its bitter enemies.

Message from Colonel Mu’ummar Qaddafi

Recollections of My Life: Col. Mu’ummar Qaddafi, The Leader of the Revolution.
Published by Pravda, April 5, 2011.

For 40 years, or was it longer, I can’t remember, I did all I could to give people houses, hospitals, schools, and when they were hungry, I gave them food. I even made Benghazi in to farmland from the desert, I stood up to attacks from that cowboy Reagan, when he killed my adopted orphaned daughter, he was trying to kill me, instead he killed that poor innocent child. Then I helped my brothers and sisters from Africa with money for the African Union.

I did all I could to help people understand the concept of real democracy, where people’s committees ran our country. But that was never enough, as some told me, even people who had 10 room homes, new suits and furniture, were never satisfied, as selfish as they were they wanted more. They told Americans and other visitors, that they needed “democracy” and “freedom” never realizing it was a cut throat system, where the biggest dog eats the rest, but they were enchanted with those words, never realizing that in America, there was no free medicine, no free hospitals, no free housing, no free education and no free food, except when people had to beg or go to long lines to get soup.

No, no matter what I did, it was never enough for some, but for others, they knew I was the son of Gamal Abdel Nasser, the only true Arab and Muslim leader we’ve had since Salah-al-Deen, when he claimed the Suez Canal for his people, as I claimed Libya, for my people, it was his footsteps I tried to follow, to keep my people free from colonial domination – from thieves who would steal from us.

Now, I am under attack by the biggest force in military history, my little African son, Obama wants to kill me, to take away the freedom of our country, to take away our free housing, our free medicine, our free education, our free food, and replace it with American style thievery, called “capitalism,” but all of us in the Third World know what that means, it means corporations run the countries, run the world, and the people suffer. So, there is no alternative for me, I must make my stand, and if Allah wishes, I shall die by following His path, the path that has made our country rich with farmland, with food and health, and even allowed us to help our African and Arab brothers and sisters to work here with us, in the Libyan Jamahiriya.

I do not wish to die, but if it comes to that, to save this land, my people, all the thousands who are all my children, then so be it.

Let  this testament be my voice to the world, that I stood up to crusader attacks of NATO, stood up to cruelty, stood up to betrayal, stood up to the West and its colonialist ambitions, and that I stood with my African brothers, my true Arab and Muslim brothers, as a beacon of light. When others were building castles, I lived in a modest house, and in a tent. I never forgot my youth in Sirte, I did not spend our national treasury foolishly, and like Salah-al-Deen, our great Muslim leader, who rescued Jerusalem for Islam, I took little for myself…

In the West, some have called me “mad”, “crazy”, but they know the truth yet continue to lie, they know that our land is independent and free, not in the colonial grip, that my vision, my path, is, and has been clear and for my people and that I will fight to my last breath to keep us free, may Allah almighty help us to remain faithful and free.

Col. Mu’ummar Qaddafi, 2011/05/04
Translated by Professor Sam Hamod, Ph.D.
Copyright Col. Mu’ummar Qaddafi, – Mathaba.Net 

My Reaction to Osama bin Laden’s Death
By Noam Chomsky, May 6, 2011

We might ask ourselves how we would be reacting if Iraqi commandos landed at George W. Bush’s compound, assassinated him, and dumped his body in the Atlantic.

It’s increasingly clear that the operation was a planned assassination, multiply violating elementary norms of international law. There appears to have been no attempt to apprehend the unarmed victim, as presumably could have been done by 80 commandos facing virtually no opposition—except, they claim, from his wife, who lunged towards them. In societies that profess some respect for law, suspects are apprehended and brought to fair trial. I stress “suspects.” In April 2002, the head of the FBI, Robert Mueller, informed the press that after the most intensive investigation in history, the FBI could say no more than that it “believed” that the plot was hatched in Afghanistan, though implemented in the UAE and Germany. What they only believed in April 2002, they obviously didn’t know 8 months earlier, when Washington dismissed tentative offers by the Taliban (how serious, we do not know, because they were instantly dismissed) to extradite bin Laden if they were presented with evidence—which, as we soon learned, Washington didn’t have. Thus Obama was simply lying when he said, in his White House statement, that “we quickly learned that the 9/11 attacks were carried out by al Qaeda.”

Nothing serious has been provided since. There is much talk of bin Laden’s “confession,” but that is rather like my confession that I won the Boston Marathon. He boasted of what he regarded as a great achievement.

There is also much media discussion of Washington’s anger that Pakistan didn’t turn over bin Laden, though surely elements of the military and security forces were aware of his presence in Abbottabad. Less is said about Pakistani anger that the U.S. invaded their territory to carry out a political assassination. Anti-American fervor is already very high in Pakistan, and these events are likely to exacerbate it. The decision to dump the body at sea is already, predictably, provoking both anger and skepticism in much of the Muslim world.

It’s like naming our murder weapons after victims of our crimes: Apache, Tomahawk… It’s as if the Luftwaffe were to call its fighter planes “Jew” and “Gypsy.”

We might ask ourselves how we would be reacting if Iraqi commandos landed at George W. Bush’s compound, assassinated him, and dumped his body in the Atlantic. Uncontroversially, his crimes vastly exceed bin Laden’s, and he is not a “suspect” but uncontroversially the “decider” who gave the orders to commit the “supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole” (quoting the Nuremberg Tribunal) for which Nazi criminals were hanged: the hundreds of thousands of deaths, millions of refugees, destruction of much of the country, the bitter sectarian conflict that has now spread to the rest of the region.

There’s more to say about [Cuban airline bomber Orlando] Bosch, who just died peacefully in Florida, including reference to the “Bush doctrine” that societies that harbor terrorists are as guilty as the terrorists themselves and should be treated accordingly. No one seemed to notice that Bush was calling for invasion and destruction of the U.S. and murder of its criminal president.

Same with the name, Operation Geronimo. The imperial mentality is so profound, throughout western society, that no one can perceive that they are glorifying bin Laden by identifying him with courageous resistance against genocidal invaders. It’s like naming our murder weapons after victims of our crimes: Apache, Tomahawk… It’s as if the Luftwaffe were to call its fighter planes “Jew” and “Gypsy.”

There is much more to say, but even the most obvious and elementary facts should provide us with a good deal to think about.

Copyright 2011 Noam Chomsky

Storm The Banks

Three Short Essays On The Crises

The Voag was checking out the news today and came across these three articles, which we figured were worth reposting. 

These essays have been republished without permission. 

Bond Markets Have The United States In Their Sights

Gerry Gold, 20 April 2011
Assessing the significance of credit rating agency Standard & Poor’s historic decision to downgrade the debt outlook for the USA is complex. But significant it definitely is. S&P and Moody’s, which between them control 80% of the rating market, act as intelligence gatherers and forecasters on behalf of capitalist investors. They examine relevant aspects of an institutional issuer of debt – usually a corporate entity or a state body – and assess the risk to an investor of placing their money with that institution.

The higher the risk, the more the issuer of debt has to pay to the investor in interest or “yield”, and consequently, the more the corporation has to make from its operations, or in the case of a state, the more it has to extract from its citizens in taxes. So, you might say, the increasing burden being placed on the populations of effectively bankrupt countries like Ireland and Greece is largely on the say-so of these agencies.

Like all these agencies, S&P is a competitive, for-profit operation. In order to keep its customers paying their fees – and that is mostly the corporations whose performance is being assessed – it needs to show that it is getting its assessments right, more than it gets them wrong.

In the run-up to the 2007-8 global crash, S&P was itself mesmerised by the hysterical expansion of fantasy finance in which products derived from the issue of traditional forms of credit and debt based on real value multiplied the amount in circulation many times over. The big players issued monumental quantities of derivatives and they paid the ratings agencies huge fees to provide the market with favourable assessments. Money talks. So the agencies failed to provide any warning about the impossible state of Lehman Brothers which crashed out of existence in 2008.

Governments, on the other hand, don’t pay the agencies to assess the health of their economies, or to assess the risk that they might default on interest payments to the investors who lend them money through the bonds they purchase.

The rating agencies make their assessments as part of the fees paid by corporations who want to know whether the state’s debt is more or less risky. The big, or even only question at stake is: will the government act sufficiently strongly to provide the conditions for the corporations to intensify the extraction of profit from their population?

So when S&P decides to downgrade the outlook for US debt, it is taking into account many factors. These days the judgement is more political than it is economic. The on-going Punch & Judy style shadow-play between Obama and the Republicans over the $4-5 trillion programme of cuts to be visited upon the American people is one aspect of the analysis.

As one economist observed: “The key question is whether the gridlocked US political system can respond in time to avert a bond market revolt.” Some commentators say that S&P’s action is a warning to Obama from the world of finance. If they don’t crack down hard enough, investment money will go elsewhere and interest rates will rise. But they’ll also be assessing the likely contagion effect of the wildfire of revolt spreading outwards from Tahrir Square throughout the Middle East, North Africa and taking in Gabon in Central Africa.

They’ll be weighing up the likely outcome of the political struggle against the regimes that have ensured the supply of cheap oil to fuel growth over the last forty years. They’ll be closely examining the protest movement in Europe for signs that it is moving beyond resistance. And they’ll be studying developments like the People’s Assembly arising from the occupation of the State Capitol in Wisconsin. It’s no wonder S&P has downgraded the US government’s prospects for paying back its loans.
Gerry Gold, 20 April 2011

 

The S&P Debt Warning: Wall Street Extortionists Demand
Savage Cuts

WSWS, 20 April 2011
Five days after the US Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations released a voluminous report detailing the criminal activities of the banks and credit rating firms that precipitated the 2008 Wall Street crash and global recession, one of the named culprits, Standard & Poor’s Credit Ratings Services, issued an ultimatum to the White House and Congress demanding an agreement on savage austerity measures ahead of the 2012 elections.

In lowering its outlook from “stable” to “negative” on the top AAA rating for US Treasury bonds, S&P spoke Monday for the entire financial mafia that is headquartered on Wall Street. The ratings firm declared in a press release that failure to reach an agreement in the coming months to reduce the federal deficit by at least $4 trillion over the next decade “could lead us to lower the rating.”

This amounts to a threat to crash the US and global economy and undermine the status of the dollar as the world reserve currency. The move is part of an internationally orchestrated drive by the major banks and speculators to push through devastating attacks on the living standards of the American working class.

They are applying to the United States the extortionate methods used previously to stoke up speculative attacks on the sovereign debt of a number of European countries, including Greece, Ireland, Portugal and Spain. S&P and its major ratings rivals Moody’s and Fitch have issued strategically timed credit warnings and downgrades to create a crisis atmosphere, which governments have then utilized to override popular opposition and impose mass layoffs and wage cuts and shred social programs.

John Chambers, chairman of the sovereign ratings committee at S&P, virtually admitted as much, according to a report in Tuesday’s Wall Street Journal. The Journal wrote: “If the US reaches a British-style resolution, S&P will restore the US outlook to stable, Mr. Chambers said.”

In May of 2009, S&P lowered Britain’s credit outlook. It reversed the action 17 months later after the newly elected Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government announced a program of draconian cuts that will shatter the country’s social safety net.

Readers can make their own judgment as to S&P’s standing to be issuing such ultimatums. The Senate report on the Wall Street crash describes the corrupt process by which S&P routinely slapped AAA ratings on worthless securities marketed by the banks as follows: “Credit rating agencies were paid by Wall Street firms that sought their ratings and profited from the financial products being rated… The ratings agencies weakened their standards as each competed to provide the most favorable rating to win business and greater market share. The result was a race to the bottom.” Senator Carl Levin, the chairman of the subcommittee, described what the investigation uncovered as “a financial snake pit rife with greed, conflicts of interest and wrongdoing.”

By rights, the top S&P executives who presided over this fraud and pocketed multi-million-dollar salaries in the process should be sitting in prison. Instead, still at their posts and having suffered no consequences, they are using the disaster of their own making to gut bedrock social programs such as Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security upon which tens of millions of people depend.

The statement issued by S&P on Monday described both the Republican fiscal year 2012 budget plan and that outlined by President Obama last week as a basis for cutting the federal deficit by $4 trillion. However, the two sides had to come to an agreement before the national election in 2012, the company insisted.

This demand underscores the anti-democratic character of the so-called budget debate. It is an elaborate charade, behind which stands the dictatorship of the banks. The deal to eviscerate what is left of the social reforms of the 20th century has to be sealed before the elections to make sure that the vote in no way becomes a referendum on austerity and the electorate has absolutely no say in the matter.

The mass opposition to the measures being proposed by both parties is well known to Wall Street and its political servants in Washington. On Monday, the same day as the S&P announcement, McClatchy Newspapers published the results of a McClatchy-Marist poll showing that voters by a margin of 2-to-1 support raising taxes on incomes above $250,000, with 64 percent in favor and 33 percent opposed. They oppose cutting Medicare and Medicaid by 80-18 percent.

S&P intervened at the behest of the banks to shift the phony budget debate even further to the right and create the conditions for even deeper cuts than those being currently proposed. Interviewed Monday on Bloomberg Television, David Beers, S&P’s global head of sovereign finance ratings, said the $4 trillion deficit-cutting target was “not enough to ultimately halt the rising trajectory of US debt.” It was, he said, merely “a useful starting point.”

The establishment media immediately signaled that it had gotten the message. The Los Angeles Times editorialized that “Congress and the White House can’t afford to ignore this warning shot.” The Financial Times of London published an editorial that declared, “S&P’s warning shot should galvanise America’s leaders.”

Democratic leaders rushed to reassure Wall Street that they were on board. Speaking at a community college in Virginia Tuesday, Obama said, “I believe that Democrats and Republicans can come together to get this done.”
Steny Hoyer of Maryland, the No. 2 Democrat in the House of Representative, said Monday, “Today’s revised outlook shows the urgent, bipartisan action needed to put our nation on a serious path to reduce deficits.”

Erskine Bowles, a former White House chief of staff for Bill Clinton and co-chair of last year’s bipartisan fiscal commission, was even more emphatic. Speaking to the Financial Times, he said S&P had been “absolutely right” in lowering it outlook on US debt. “If anything, they understate the extent of the problem,” he said.

Only a mass, independent movement of implacable opposition by the working class can defeat this criminal conspiracy. The World Socialist Web Site and the Socialist Equality Party urge workers and young people to reject the entire framework of the so-called budget debate. There must be uncompromising opposition to any cuts in jobs, wages or social programs and services. The working class bears no responsibility for the crisis of the capitalist system.

We propose an alternate policy. As a down payment, to begin to recoup the wealth plundered by the financial elite, we propose a 50 percent tax surcharge on all household wealth over $5 million. This should be supplemented by raising the income tax on households taking in more than $500,000 a year to 90 percent. These measures will not only generate hundreds of billions of dollars for jobs, schools, health care, housing and pensions, they will attack the profligate squandering of resources and contribute mightily to the moral as well as the economic health of society.

These initial steps lead inexorably to the nationalization of the banks and major corporations and their transformation into public utilities under the democratic control of the working population. This is a socialist program. It requires that the working class break politically from the two parties of big business and build a mass movement to fight for a workers’ government.
Barry Grey, 20 April 2011


Portugal: Another Triumph For The Bond Dealers

Paul Feldman, 8 April 2011
As Portugal declares state bankruptcy, after its Socialist Party government failed to get an austerity package through parliament, it’s another triumph for the dictatorship of the money markets and bond dealers. Now, even though Portugal is without a government, the price demanded by Germany and the richer EU countries for an €80 billion bail-out is even deeper cuts in public spending than were first proposed. The upcoming general election is definitely one to lose.

Portugal’s finances collapsed because its budget deficit grew rapidly following the onset of the global recession. But the money markets drove up interest rates until Portugal was borrowing at over 8.5%, adding to the total deficit at a rate which made it impossible to repay.

In the last year, Greece – which still has a ‘socialist’ government and Ireland, which saw the ruling party wiped out at the recent general election, have suffered the same fate. Does the ‘contagion’ stop at Lisbon, or is Madrid next?

Spain’s government – yet another one that claims the rubric ‘socialist’ – is confident it can avoid Portugal’s fate – because it says it’s already making deep cuts in public spending! Youth unemployment is running at over 40% as a consequence. Meanwhile, Spanish bank assets are worth far less than before because of the collapse in property values and refinancing is increasingly expensive and hard to come by.

You can cut – as the Coalition is doing in Britain – to avoid higher borrowing rates but that only deepens the recession. Spending more would leader to higher borrowing rates, which the banks won’t like. Why? Because in the perverse world of capitalist finance, the value of the government bonds, which they hold as assets, depreciates as rates rise.

At the same time, British banks are steadfastly refusing to resume rates of lending last seen before the credit crunch of 2007. That’s because their balance sheets remain toxic and full of bad debt. Even the right-wing press is fed up with the banks.

On Monday, the Independent Commission on Banking set up by the government reports, and no one expects it to suggest any fundamental changes. The Daily Telegraph’s Jeff Randall reported: “The banks have captured our money twice over: as cash in their vaults and investments in their shares. We own all of Northern Rock, most of Royal Bank of Scotland and nearly half of Lloyds Banking Group. We rescued them – and in so doing became their prisoners.

But this is not a new problem. By the outbreak of World War One, the banks and the monopolies had formed an unholy alliance against ordinary working people and elected governments alike. After creating the Federal Reserve – America’s central bank – President Woodrow Wilson declared:

“I am a most unhappy man. I have unwittingly ruined my country. A great industrial nation is controlled by its system of credit. Our system of credit is concentrated. The growth of the nation, therefore, and all our activities are in the hands of a few men. We have come to be one of the worst ruled, one of the most completely controlled and dominated governments in the civilised world. No longer a government by free opinion, no longer a government by conviction and the vote of the majority, but a government by the opinion and duress of a small group of dominant men”.

In the recent period of corporate-driven globalisation, the tensions and contradictions between the capitalist state and capitalist finance have deepened to the point where governments tread warily. The only way to sort that out is to put an end to the power of the bond dealers, banks and money markets and create a new, socially-driven financial system. It doesn’t need me to tell you that bourgeois governments are not capable of such a revolutionary change.
Paul Feldman, 8 April 2011Voag-Logo-9

Focus On Iraq: The War Continues

For most people in Britain and the US, Iraq is already history. Afghanistan has long since taken the lion’s share of media attention, as the death toll of Nato troops rises inexorably. Controversy about Iraq is now almost entirely focused on the original decision to invade: what’s happening there in 2010 barely registers.

This view is being reinforced by the continuing Chilcot Inquiry in to the Iraq war, where Tony Blair was again called to give evidence last week. In August last year Obama declared that the occupation was over and he was bringing the troops back home on schedule.  For much of the British and American press, this was the real thing: headlines hailed the “end” of the war and reported “US troops to leave Iraq”.

The US isn’t leaving Iraq; it’s rebranding the occupation
Nothing could be further from the truth. The US hasn’t withdrawn from Iraq at all – it’s just rebranded the occupation. Just as George Bush’s war on terror was re-titled “overseas contingency operations” when Obama became president, US “combat operations” has been rebadged as “stability operations”.

But as Major General Stephen Lanza, the US military spokesman in Iraq, told the New York Times in August: “In practical terms, nothing will change”. After this month’s withdrawal, there will still be 50,000 US troops in 94 military bases, “advising” and training the Iraqi army, “providing security” and carrying out “counter-terrorism” missions. In US military speak, that covers pretty well everything they might want to do.

Granted, 50,000 is a major reduction on the numbers in Iraq a year ago. But what Obama once called “the dumb war” goes remorselessly on. In fact, violence has been increasing as the Iraqi political factions remain deadlocked in rows over the Green Zone and domestic policy. More civilians are being killed in Iraq than Afghanistan. According to the Iraqi government, last year saw worst figures for two years.

And even though US troops are rarely seen on the streets, they are still dying at a rate of six a month, their bases regularly shelled by resistance groups, while Iraqi troops and US-backed militias are being killed in far greater numbers. And al-Qaida – Bush’s gift to Iraq – is back in business across swaths of the country. Although hardly noticed in Britain, there are still 150 British troops in Iraq supporting US forces.

Meanwhile, the US government hasn’t just rebranded the occupation, it has privatised it. There are around 100,000 private contractors working for the occupying forces, of whom more than 11,000 are armed mercenaries, mostly “third country nationals”, typically from the developing world.

The US is now expanding their numbers, in what Jeremy Scahill – who helped expose the role of the notorious US security firm Blackwater – calls the “coming surge” of contractors in Iraq. Hillary Clinton wants to increase the number of military contractors working for the state department alone from 2,700 to 7,000, to be based in five “enduring presence posts” across Iraq.

The advantage of an outsourced occupation is clearly that someone other than US soldiers can do the dying to maintain control of Iraq. It also helps get round the commitment, made just before Bush left office, to pull all American troops out by the end of 2011. The other getout, widely expected on all sides, is a new Iraqi request for US troops to stay on – just as soon as a suitable government can be stitched together to make it.

What is abundantly clear is that the US, whose embassy in Baghdad is now the size of Vatican City, has no intention of letting go of Iraq any time soon. One reason for that can be found in the dozen 20-year contracts to run Iraq’s biggest oil fields that were handed out last year to foreign companies, including three of the Anglo-American oil majors that exploited Iraqi oil under British control before 1958.

The dubious legality of these deals has held back some US companies, but as Greg Muttitt, author of a book on the subject, argues, the prize for the US is bigger than the contracts themselves, which put 60% of Iraq’s reserves under long-term foreign corporate control. If output can be boosted as sharply as planned, the global oil price could be slashed and the grip of recalcitrant Opec states broken.

The horrific cost of the war to the Iraqi people, on the other hand, and the continuing fear and misery of daily life make a mockery of claims that the US surge of 2007 “worked” and that Iraq has come good after all.

It’s not only the hundreds of thousands of dead and 4 million refugees. After seven years of US (and British) occupation, tens of thousands are still tortured and imprisoned without trial, health and education has dramatically deteriorated, the position of women has gone horrifically backwards, trade unions are effectively banned, Baghdad is divided by 1,500 checkpoints and blast walls, electricity supplies have all but broken down and people pay with their lives for speaking out.

Even without the farce of last year’s elections, the banning and killing of candidates and subsequent political breakdown, to claim that “Iraq is a democracy” is grotesque. The Green Zone administration would collapse in short order without the protection of US troops and security contractors. No wonder the speculation among Iraqis and some US officials is of an eventual military takeover.

The Iraq war has been a historic political and strategic failure for the US. It was unable to impose a military solution, let alone turn the country into a beacon of western values or regional policeman. But by playing the sectarian and ethnic cards, it also prevented the emergence of a national resistance movement and a humiliating Vietnam-style pullout. The signs are it wants to create a new form of outsourced semi-colonial regime to maintain its grip on the country and region. The struggle to regain Iraq’s independence has only just begun.

Depleted Uranium
Meanwhile, it has become widely known that the UK used depleted uranium weapons during the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003. A UK defence official has reportedly admitted using the highly controversial ammunition. “UK forces used about 1.9 metric tons of depleted uranium ammunition in the Iraq war in 2003,” UK Defence Secretary Liam Fox said in a written reply to the House of Commons last year.

It is alleged that a joint inquiry by Iraq’s environment, health and science ministries uncovered more than 40 sites across the war-torn country contaminated with high levels of radiation. The use of uranium ammunition is widely controversial because of potential long-term health effects. The US and UK have allegedly used up to 2,000 tons of such ammunition during the war.

In August last year, Labour Party MP Paul Flynn, speaking to Russia Today said: “The depleted uranium still causes serious health problems. “We know that in the first Iraq war depleted uranium was used in shells. It’s very likely it was used again,” Flynn said. “It’s used as ballast because of its density in shells. It’s not as radioactive as it might be, it’s uranium 238 where the gamma-radiation has been reduced. It’s not a weapon of mass destruction, but sadly it’s a weapon of eternal destruction because it turns into dust and gets into the water supply, into the air and it can of course give children cancer, and cause birth defects.”

Last year, findings of a study conducted by a group of researchers in London suggested the same. One of the authors of the report, British-Iraqi scientist Malak Hamdan told RT: “The study that we have conducted does actually prove that there are massive increases in cancer, a 38-fold increase in leukemia, 10-fold increase in breast cancer -and infant mortalities are also staggering,”.

Iraq’s Ministry for Human Rights is expected to file a lawsuit against Britain and the US over their use of depleted uranium bombs in Iraq and will seek compensation for the victims of these weapons.

Corruption & Repression
Sami Ramadani, a British Iraqi wrote in The Guardian, 28th July 2010: “The Iraqis who Blair and Bush glorified and brought to power through sham elections are bleeding the nation dry through corruption and the sell-off of Iraq’s resources to multinationals. Freedom and democracy is nowhere to be seen. Deploying the US-built Iraqi security forces against the people is common. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have drawn attention to the plight of thousands of prisoners, widespread use of torture, and both judicial and extra-judicial killings”.

“Meanwhile, the litany of repressive policies gets longer. It is illegal to be a member of a trade union, just as it was under Saddam. Paul Bremer, the US envoy who ruled Iraq after the invasion, revived Saddam’s infamous “decree 150” in 2004, effectively banning all public sector unions. Activists are now treated as if they were terrorists. Troops and police have raided the offices of workers’ unions across the country, following a government decree under the 2005 anti-terrorism act, to ban them and seize their assets”.

“Britain’s TUC has described the regime’s action as a “Saddam-style move”, and its general secretary Brendan Barber has written to the foreign secretary, William Hague, to help stop this “dangerous abuse of power”. The president of the Federation of Oil Unions, Hasan Juma’a, and several other union leaders have been charged with contacting the media, sabotaging the economy and high treason. Juma’a believes that the regime is trying to “liquidate” the unions while transferring Iraq’s oil wealth to the multinationals”.

Having auctioned Iraq’s oil wealth, the oil minister Hussain al-Shahristani was recently given the electricity portfolio after mass demonstrations against lack of electricity supplies and regime corruption. Troops opened fire on the demonstrators while the prime minister described them as “hooligans” and deployed troops in Baghdad to stop the protests – dubbed by Iraqis as the “electricity uprising” – spreading to the capital.

Missing Millions
Meanwhile last year, The US department of defence called in forensic accountants to help track $8.1bn – out of a total of  $9.1bn – in Iraq’s oil revenue entrusted to it after the fall of Baghdad, following an official audit that revealed the money was missing. The report was issued by the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, which had previously criticised poor book-keeping by senior officials throughout the last seven years.

Iraqi officials said they knew nothing about the missing billions and had no means to find where they had been spent. “We will speak to the oil ministry finance committee about this,” said a spokesman for Iraq’s oil minister.

The funds were to be used for the reconstruction of Iraq’s worn-out infrastructure which was to be a central plank of the US military’s achievement. The audit could not find any documentation to substantiate how the Pentagon spent $2.6bn. An additional $53bn has been allocated by Congress to rebuild Iraq and the audit committee is examining whether those funds can be accounted for.